The student organization ISAFEN offers joint activities and excursions throughout the semester so that you can quickly get in touch with the other exchange students. For example, in the first week we went skiing together in one of the surrounding ski areas of Santiago. Later there was an international buffet, a salsa course, trekkings, football games and of course lots of parties on the program. There are really plenty of parties at the FEN, although the biggest ones, which take place once a semester, should definitely not be missed. This includes a “Cajón”, a festival in the nearby “Cajón de Maipu”, and the “Gala”, a prom at the end of the semester.
The international office shows many ways to get involved in the faculty. One of them is “Let’s Chat”, a weekly open meeting where Chilean and exchange students have lunch together. Furthermore, for the first time this semester, exchange students who are interested in opening an English conversation club at the FEN were sought through a cooperation with the US embassy. I took this opportunity and headed one of the “conversation clubs”. This took place 1-2 hours a week and offered the Chilean students a relaxed setting to voluntarily practice English in a fixed small group. It was a great opportunity and enriching experience for me to get involved in university life and to get in closer contact with Chilean students.
4. Everyday life and leisure time in Santiago
Santiago is not a city that shines with a particularly beautiful cityscape or has many sights, but I personally felt very comfortable. It is very exciting to discover the different “barrios”, as they are very different and have a lot to offer. Bellavista, Brasil, Lastarria and Italia are the classic neighborhoods for going out and partying. The city is also quite green with its many parks. On clear days, which are unfortunately far too rare due to the smog, you can see the snow-capped peaks of the Andes in winter. Anyone interested in the human rights violations during the Pinochet dictatorship should pay a visit to the “Museo de la Memoría y los Derechos Humanos”.
The supermarkets in Santiago are more expensive than in Germany, especially when it comes to sausage and cheese. In addition to “La Vega”, the city’s largest market, there are also so-called “Ferias”, smaller farmers’ markets that take place once a week in different parts of the city. There you can buy fruit and vegetables of good quality and affordable prices.
Chile is one of the safest countries in South America, but still, as in any big city, you should be careful. This includes, for example, never leaving your pocket and valuables out of your sight, not typing through the streets on your cell phone and taking an “Uber” at night instead of going home alone. About half of the exchange students had something stolen once during the semester, especially at parties like “Miércoles Po”, a lot of thefts happen. Furthermore, one experiences some smaller earthquakes during a semester in Santiago, since Chile is one of the most seismically active countries in the world. However, the city is structurally designed for this, so that an earthquake with a magnitude of 4-6 is usually ignored by the Chileans.
- For information about Chile and South America, please visit dentistrymyth.
If you study in Chile in the spring semester from July to November, the Chilean national holiday is definitely September 18. For Chileans, this is the most important day of the year, and people are looking forward to it many weeks in advance. The biggest topic of conversation beforehand is what has been planned for the “Dieciocho” and the “Fiestas Patrias”. When the time comes, “Asados” (barbecues) and “Fondas” (tents with music and dances) take place everywhere, people dance “Cueca”, eat “Empanadas” and drink “Chicha” (a type of red wine) and “Terremotos” (actually earthquake, but this is also the name of the quasi Chilean national drink). In my semester almost all exchange students were in Pichilemu, a surfing town 3 hours south of Santiago, which was an unforgettable weekend.
At the weekend there are a variety of excursion options to escape the big city for a while. The most popular of these are Valparaíso, Vina del Mar, Pichilemu or the “Cajón de Maipu”. In addition, Santiago is surrounded by various “Cerros” (hills / mountains) that can be climbed. Depending on how the mid-term exams are, you have a few days off halfway through the semester and can go on a trip to the Atacama Desert, Valle de Elqui or Pucón, for example. Santiago is an ideal starting point for trips within Chile, but also to Argentina, Bolivia and Peru, Colombia and Brazil. If you have the opportunity, you should plan enough time and money after the semester to tour a few of these countries.
I am very satisfied with my decision to go to the FEN and can definitely recommend a semester abroad in Santiago. I learned a lot about the history, politics and culture of each country in South America and improved both my Spanish and my English. Chile is a beautiful and diverse country that you should definitely see!